We speak with The Langham Hong Kong’s managing director Marcel N.A. Holman who gives us his assurances of a safe stay while offering suggestions to keep us excited about the future of travel

Everyone is waiting to travel again, and Hong Kong remains a favourite destination. One place to consider staying at is The Langham Hong Kong, which is renowned for its trademark European luxury decor located across the iconic Victoria Harbour skyline.

In February 2020, Marcel N.A. Holman was named the managing director of The Langham Hong Kong and regional vice president, operations in China for The Langham Hotels and Resorts. The new position means that he is taking over at a time when the industry is facing an unprecedented challenge due to the ongoing pandemic.

Still, Holman — who has over 25 years’ experience across pre-openings, hotel renovations, operations and F&B — is taking it in his stride. As the Dutch national says: “I am optimistic about what the future holds. I think this year will still be monitored. But I am confident as more vaccinations and more travel bubbles open up, the [hospitality] industry will come back. We have people who enjoy travelling, going on holiday or doing business with other people; be it face to face for social or for business it will come back.”

It is refreshing to hear leaders of industry talk about optimism, instead of doom and gloom common these days in the Covid-19 era. Then again, part of Holman’s confidence also lies in the fact that he is a veteran in the industry as well as the property he represents.

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The Langham Hong Kong Lobby - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

The hotel is located in the vibrant Tsim Sha Tsui district surrounded by over 700 designer shops within the fashion quarters of Canton Road

 

It also helps that Langham Hong Kong — situated in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui district, within easy access to public transportation, shopping, food and entertainment — is a gem by itself. The hotel exudes European charm and elegance, housing 498 rooms with every comfort a traveller needs. It also features everything from the celebrated three Michelin-starred T’ang Court Cantonese restaurant to the Langham British Afternoon Tea at the glamorous Palm Court. Who could ask for more?

Recently, Holman cleared his busy schedule to accommodate a virtual chat with Options to talk about a variety of topics related to corporate social responsibility (CSR), brand tie-ups and even vaccinations — all with keeping you safe on your next visit in mind.

Tell us more about your CSR (Promote Stronger Together) programme?
In a local market, we have to contribute back to the local markets. And that can be in different ways. First of all, I think the biggest way is that we employ locals, we pay people locally, we buy local as much as we can.


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At the same time, we work on different activities. One thing we did in March for National Happiness Day is that we came together with a plan to give back to the local community, and we decided to give to the Covid-19 testing centres. We donated afternoon tea to six centres in our neighbourhood. As the managing director, I’m really proud of the team.
Here’s another sample: we recently did a Paint. Sip. Eat. with Italian artist Francesco Lietti. In this exhibition Lietti shows a collection of his painted scenes from Hong Kong and all over Asia. We created a package where our guests could buy a package to try gins because we have a gin bar.
Lietti donates 20% of the proceeds from the paintings sold during this exhibition to Matilda’s Children Foundation, while The Langham, Hong Kong will be auctioning the completed collaborative art piece from the Paint. Sip. Eat. sessions and donating the proceeds to the same local charity.

 

The Langham Paint.Sip.Eat Launch Event - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

Paint. Sip. Eat. with Italian artist Francesco Lietti (right), where 20% of the proceeds from the paintings sold during this exhibition were donated to the Matilda’s Children Foundation

In the age of the pandemic, what do you think people are looking for when booking a place to stay?
I need to split this answer into two parts. Firstly in our local market, people are looking for an experience and something different. Hence, we create all sorts of partnerships and other things to keep it exciting for our guests. At the same time, you know, the apartments in Hong Kong are not very large, so people like space. We want them to enjoy their rooms, the swimming pools and other facilities. We have opened up as much as we can to the local market. We have activities for guests and these range from wine tasting, gin tasting, dumpling making, and flower arrangements, a little bit of painting classes, yoga and more. We want a personalised and individual experience for our guests.
Secondly, for the international travellers it will be very much driven into being confident that we are on top of this, that we have solid hygiene procedures in place. The rooms are sanitised. We have stepped up that level quite dramatically in many ways.

How do vaccines come into play now that global leaders are racing to get needles in arms? How will this change the way Langham looks at their businesses?

First of all, for our team members, we have started conversation a few months ago already. It’s not about what you like or don’t like, but it’s a fact of life that you need to be vaccinated for certain diseases, right? We normally get vaccinated for malaria, yellow fever or others.
And all these types of diseases are still with us, globally. But we learn how to live with it, either through vaccination or adapting to different types of behaviour. I suspect Covid-19 will be the same, we just need to live with it.
The conversation would have started a number of months ago with our team members that it is better for us to be vaccinated for ourselves, our family, our children and our colleagues.
I’m proud to say that the team understands that. And we have since a month or so have almost 100% vaccinated team members. Of course, we have a few staff members not vaccinated for medical reasons, which is what we expected.

When borders open, where is the first place you want to go?
Anywhere, really. But I guess it will be within Asia most probably, which is fine. Asia is a powerhouse. I think once there’s some kind of an agreement between dif- ferent countries, it will come back really fast. I’m very confident about that.